Australian rugby
Folau on track for Wallabies debut
March 7, 2013
The Waratahs' Israel Folau is held up, New South Wales Waratahs v Melbourne Rebels, Allianz Stadium, Stadium, March 1, 2013
Israel Folau has been on the end of some brutal defence but is coping well according to Robbie Deans. © Getty Images

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans says Israel Folau is "not that far away" from making a shock Test debut against the British and Irish Lions in June.

Folau is the youngest player to represent Australia in rugby league and now appears on track to become a dual-international in the toughest of arenas. The cross-code star is just two Super Rugby games into his union career, but Deans confirmed on Thursday that Folau is firmly on his radar.

Deans said the major challenge for the former league star and AFL player would be to find the right instincts in contact and at the breakdown before a 25-man Wallabies squad is picked three weeks out from the first Test on June 22.

"Well, he's not that far away, he's on the radar," Deans said. "His entry into union has been very good. It's not easy going from AFL to union, so he's shown enough encouraging signs and we'll just keep watching."

"The tough area for Israel is the contact area and that's one he'll have to master and master quickly," Deans added. "But he's smart and he'll get that done."

It seemed a Wallabies debut in June would be an unlikely scenario for Folau after he struggled against Queensland two weeks ago. However, his work in setting up two second half tries against Melbourne last Friday showed the 23-year-old has the skills to be a star, provided he can pick up on the finer details.

Deans said on Thursday that he'll lean towards experience when picking his Wallaby squad, because of the lack of preparation his side will have heading into the three-Test tour against the Lions - who last visited Australia in 2001.

However, the exception to the rule is Folau. Deans is confident Folau's track-record of dominating in State of Origin, Tests and grand finals in league, have him well placed to excel in the cauldron of a Lions series.

"He's a bloke who is not going to be daunted by the occasion," Deans said. "He's gone through a rapid learning curve in two weeks. He's shown he has the capacity to learn and he's clearly got some skills that are of value."

"It's very much around habits in many ways," Deans added. "Whether he can master those instinctive responses fast enough - but there's 15 rounds of Super Rugby, so that's a good apprenticeship."

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